“Circular fashion” is a hot trend in the retail business, and it has nothing to do with polka dots! The idea is to reduce waste and pollution by extending the lifecycle of garments through recycling and donation programs. It’s also a great way for shopaholics like myself to reduce guilt and clutter!
Believe it or not, the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles every year, according to the Council for Textile Recycling.
Some clothing companies are overhauling the way they manufacture their products, focusing on recycled materials as well as sourcing new materials in socially responsible ways, such as using organic cotton. Many startups are building whole businesses around ethical fashion practices. Other companies are simply encouraging recycling and reuse by accepting used clothing and accessories at their stores and via their websites through the mail.
If you’re interested in helping to lighten the landfill load (85% of textiles are not recycled and end up in the trash) and protect the planet from toxic chemicals used to manufacture leather, cotton, and other fashion materials, as well as conserve water (the fashion industry uses enough water for 7 million U.S. households every year!), a good way to start is to take advantage of programs offered by brands you already love. Some will even give you a nice discount for your charity. Here’s a list:
The North Face offers a credit of $10 to put toward your next $100 purchase when you donate clothes and shoes at its stores.
Eileen Fisher “buys back” its own clothes and gives you a $5 reward card for each item, and you can buy recycled Eileen Fisher Renew clothing at many of its stores. You can also shop the Reworn Collection at its website. Eileen Fisher's recycling program uses natural dyes and creates fashionable one-of-a-kind items from damaged garments.
Patagonia takes back old Patagonia clothing and resells them through a trade-in program at its Portland retail store and on its website. You can get a store credit of as much as $100 for each used garment. Patagonia garments can also be sent back for recycling via the mail or a retail store.
Madewell accepts used jeans, which it recycles and turns into housing insulation for communities in need. And you get $20 off a new full-priced pair! If you make a purchase at Madewell.com, you’ll receive a postage-paid mailer that you can use to mail in a pair of used jeans.
Other fashion companies might not offer discounts but they help make donations super easy.
Nordstrom’s new clothing donation program encourages donations through its new partnership with GiveBackBox.com. Here’s how it works: When you order from Nordstrom.com, simply refill the box with used clothing, accessories, and shoes you’d like to donate and print out a free shipping label from Givebackbox.com. Give Back Box also works with Charming Charlie, REI, Kenneth Cole, Ann Taylor, and a bunch of other retailers.
H&M takes back used garments in its stores, which are then sold as second-hand clothes or recycled and turned into other products, such as cleaning cloths.
Uniqlo accepts used Uniqlo items in its stores and donates lightly used items to refugees and other people around the world in need.
Also, check out my TV segment on Scripps' The Now TV show.